As summer approaches, it is a good moment to begin a series about tourism and its meaning in terms of architecture, urban and regional planning.
Tourism is one of the main economic engines of Spain (nearly 10% of GDP in 2011, and close to 12,5% in jobs), and it contributes to balance external payments. In 2010 Spain was the fourth country in the world in number of foreign visitors (after France, the USA and China), and the second in dollars spent per tourist and day (996) after the USA. With a population over 46 millions, the country received in 2011 nearly 57 millions of international tourists, and the number of internal tourists was also noticeable.
This situation is by no means an accident, but the result of a state policy started in the 1950s as a part of a broader plan to revive the national economy after the 1936-1939 civil war and a long international isolation period during the 1940s. tourism had an effect on economy, but its influence was also felt strongly on landscapes and territories. This state policy rested on a preexisting tourism sector that was hardly developed, and reinforced it with strong expenditures in advertisement in foreign countries that was successful in a moment in which tourism became popular, European families began a long high spending period and enjoyed an increase in mobility due to cars and planes. Beaches where the main object of advertisement and of desire for many Europeans, and the Mediterranean coast was subject to an intense transformation, as well in urban terms as in terms of economic or political weight in the national scene, a clear symptom of the force of tourism.
With time, tourism has also grown more complex as an economic branch. The sun and beach tourism has been joined by urban tourism, and rural tourism has become during the last decade the fastest growing segment, even if it is still as small part of the total.
This first log corresponds to rural tourism. Last weekend we visited the Posada Real- Monasterio, a hotel in the municipality of Tórtoles de Esgueva (province of Burgos). The firm was constituted some five years ago with an aim to exploit a hotel in parts of an ancient enclosed monastery. The building is near a small hamlet (population 501 in 2011) which suffers the regressive demographics so common in inner Spain. Despite that, the statistics of the municipality are somehow improved (41 under 16 years in 2011) and the presence of foreign migrants can be felt, as in many areas during the last decade, with 98 foreigners in 2011, mainly Romanians and Moroccans.
One of the main reasons to locate the hotel in that municipality is its inclusion in one of the most dynamic wine growing areas of the country in the last years: Ribera del Duero, an area that gravitates around Aranda de Duero, a city on the A1 freeway, which links Madrid to Paris and Northern Europe. A quality policy joined by a Designation of Origin have contributed to good sales, but also to promote the cultivation land in tourism terms. This association of quality production and cultural and rural tourism shows the innovations in the tourism sector, and is also one of the claims of the plans and policies concerning these inner regions often threatened by depopulation.
The visited hotel follows these patterns: it creates local employment not subject to the cultivation times, generates tax revenues for the municipality and contributes to the image of the area. With a quality hotel offer and a price range on par with similar hotels, it focuses promotion on the building itself and a combined high quality food and wine offer.
The hamlet of Tórtoles is on the slope road linking the Esgueva Valle to the upper plateau; the Posada (Inn) is on the upper area, towards the plateau. It shares the building of the old monastery with other uses, a fact that makes it difficult to see it from the road. The architectural qualities of the Inn include two chapels and a chapter hall of interest, surrounded by a cloister and the old residential structure of the Covent, with more domestic qualities, but of interest. The original structure is maintained, and the architectural integration of such new elements as the elevator is satisfying.
The food and hotel offer is interesting and shows high quality, as the personalized attention to clients.
The clients are tourists visiting the Ribera del Duero and its wine-tasting routes, urbanites from Madrid or other cities that come for a weekend out of the city, and marriages and all sorts of social events. The contraction of the Spanish demand can harm the midterm results of the business, as in many parts of the country; this would also influence the sustainability of the small rural hamlets network.
Tourism in Figures (Ministry of Industries, Energy and Tourism): http://www.iet.turismoencifras.es/
Designation of Origin Ribera del Duero: http://www.riberadelduero.es/
Royal Inn Monastry Tortoles de Esgueva: http://www.posadamonasterio.es/